Rob and I welcomed our first child Emilia into this world in 2014. Having her was the easiest, simplest thing we’ve ever done, spoiling us to the point where we figured having a second child would be just as effortless.
When Emilia was a couple of years old, we started thinking about growing our family again. We got pregnant right away in 2016, but sadly lost that baby at 12 weeks, which was incredibly devastating.
Rob and I felt terrified, sad, and isolated. Miscarrying wasn’t something we ever expected, but we picked ourselves back up and took some time to heal from that before trying again.
As time passed, we felt more comfortable opening up to others about what we were going through, and in doing so, we found beautiful connections that offered us something new, huge, and momentous. The more you’re able to connect with others, the more the burden of infertility eases off your shoulders.
Coping with secondary infertility
In 2017, I subsequently had two more miscarriages. I think it’s human nature just to want answers. So, I worked with my local OB to perform testing. Low and behold, results from our genetics panel came through, and we discovered that I had a balanced translocation of chromosomes 13 and 14, which essentially means that pieces of those two chromosomes fused together. While this news weighed heavy on my heart, we at least had an answer now as to why we lost three pregnancies in a row.
It wasn’t easy to learn that if we continued trying to conceive naturally, we would likely be faced with more potential pregnancy losses, but the possibility wasn’t ruled out entirely. Rob and I held on to that glimmer of hope and tried conceiving for another year.
We had two more miscarriages, followed by a period of not getting pregnant at all. The losses were horribly sad. It was isolating. It was dark. We felt hopeless. Would we ever have a second child? But on the other hand, one of our biggest sources of strength came from our first child.
Emilia would ask, “am I a big sister yet?” and that was enough motivation to shift my thinking from, “I can’t do this again” to, “right now it feels like I can’t do this again, but I need to give myself some space and time to get through this.” Rob stood by my side through the thick of it all, reminding me that one way or another, we would have a baby. We may not know the path we’d take to have one or what it will look like, but we wouldn’t give up.
We reached a point in our journey where we turned to research, exploring alternative methods available for having our second child. In the back of my mind, I always had this plan that I would have two children 3 years apart. My plan wasn’t exactly going as expected, but Rob and I still wanted to give our daughter a sibling.
Searching for solutions
Rob and I are both very research-oriented, so we dove headfirst into figuring out the best place to go to and take the next step of building our family. We vetted clinics by how they best responded to our questions and situation. We wanted to know two things: one, if they had experience with balanced translocation; and two, their honest recommendations regarding pursuing IVF with my own eggs or donor eggs.
We could get a sense pretty quickly — call it a gut feeling! — as to whether the clinic we were talking to was going to be a fit for us. I felt like many places either told us what they thought we wanted to hear or were overly optimistic about my situation.
The truth is, we needed a clinic to be real with us.
What I really wanted to hear was for a doctor to lay it all out based on their experience — back up their stance with evidence and research, telling me what would work best from a clinical perspective.
When we called Shady Grove Fertility, we arrived at that feeling that we were in search of. One of the things that really made our physician and Shady Grove Fertility stand out was how they approached our infertility as a supportive partnership, working together to figure out what the best solution was for our family. We were comforted by the way our physician fully absorbed both sides of the equation: the emotional journey that we’ve been through as well as the biology and science behind our fertility struggles.
It was really the care and compassion that our physician exhibited, combined with their years of clinical experience, that we knew, at that moment, they would change our lives by coming up with a treatment path right for us.
Our physician suggested that based on everything we told them, donor eggs would be the best path forward. That’s what we needed to hear to make our decision because we felt in our hearts that donor egg was going to be the way to go.
Accepting the idea of donor eggs
A year prior to talking with Shady Grove Fertility, we did a lot of lot of soul searching, therapy, and simply pondering different treatment options while mourning the losses of the children we could’ve had. At first, donor egg wasn’t something I was interested in, or even wanted to consider, but with time, it changed in my mind as a very realistic solution for us.
Then, about a month after our first call with SGF, we went in person for our visit. It was complete with meetings, testing consultations, and getting to know the staff.
We naively thought that donor eggs would be our “easy solution” – like we bypassed the strain of enduring multiple cycles with my own eggs in search of the one viable embryo. Should be easier, right? But sometimes you make a plan, then end up laughing at it in retrospect.
It’s ok, you can laugh with me.
Once we completed the testing checklist and were granted access to the donor database, my husband and I wondered, “How are we ever going to pick someone? Will I get the feeling of, ‘yes, this is who I want!’ or will it just be someone I think is good enough?”
Browsing the donor egg database for a perfect match
It was during the holiday season that we logged on to the egg donor database for the first time. The search criteria can be endless! What helped us navigate the options was that we first agreed on the criteria that’s most important to us. If you have too many boxes to check off, you’ll never find the perfect match. Rob and I promised one another that we wouldn’t force ourselves to decide, and if within a month we didn’t find someone who triggered a gut feeling, we would reevaluate how we arrive on a donor.
For days on end, I would have the donor database open on my computer.
Refresh, browse, repeat.
I’m someone who’s very driven by instincts and gut feelings, it never steers me wrong. Then, one day, I viewed a donor profile and my gut twisted with positive affirmation — oh my gosh, she’s it! I called Rob right away with the donor profile number, and without hesitation, he agreed we should go for it!
My egg donor spoke to my gut instincts on many different levels. When I saw her photo, it was as if my sister was looking back at me with a familiar face that brought so much comfort. We absorbed her health information (which pleased the research side of my brain), as well as personal statements of who she is, her values, and why she’s chosen to be an egg donor (which spoke to my emotional side).
During her first cycle, we were beyond thrilled to learn that she produced a hearty number of eggs! My husband and I got a babysitter and celebrated that night feeling as if we were on top of the world.
The next day, while I was getting coffee with my sister, Shady Grove Fertility called with my fertilization report. One moment I’m sipping coffee on cloud nine, and the next I had the wind knocked out of me. Only one egg fertilized properly.
I honestly thought they made a mistake and called the wrong patient — how could this be happening? We didn’t have to wait long for our physician to help us understand this unexpected news and formulate a path forward.
For five days, we monitored that single embryo until it was time for us to make the drive back to SGF for transfer. It was agonizing – we went through so much to get to this point, would this embryo pull through as the little embryo that could? Following the transfer, our beta blood test showed a low HCG number, and when that number didn’t rise two days later, it was time to stop my meds.
This just wasn’t our cycle. The highs were so high, and our lows couldn’t get any lower.
SGF worked with us to take every measure we could to avoid the unexpected issues we encountered with our first transfer and collaborated with specialists in our hometown. During all this, we made our wishes known that we loved our original donor and wanted a second chance. We understood that she would need to take a few months to restart the process, a pause that we welcomed wholeheartedly because when you’ve found your person, you wait for them.
Brightness outshines the darkness
We were thrilled to learn that our donor agreed to another cycle! We gave the second time around everything we had to maximize our chances of success. More eggs led to a higher fertilization report, then an amazing number of blastocysts, rounding out the process with a newfound hope in pregnancy possibilities.
I felt completely humbled by my entire journey up to that point. I mean, here’s this egg donor, a woman who I know all about, yet she knows nothing about me in return, and she selflessly wants to help me fulfill my dreams of having a baby. As if her words on the egg donor database couldn’t lift my heart any higher, after my embryo transfer, I received a handwritten note from her. She expressed how brave she believed we are, and how she was holding us close to her heart throughout these emotional times. Tears completely overtook my vision as I sat there reading the letter, further confirming that we picked the absolute perfect person for our family.
Low and behold, after our fourth transfer, the embryo held on and my HCG numbers rose higher with each passing day!
Trusting these little pieces of good news was one of the most challenging hurdles I’ve experienced. For so long, we took blows of disappointment. We kept waiting for the bottom to fall out: will this next appointment be the bearer of bad news; what does this call from SGF have waiting on the other end of the line? But this time around, brightness cast from positive bloodwork results and ultrasound measurements outshined the darkness. We accepted positivity week by week rather than focusing on the long road ahead.
By the time we graduated from SGF, we simply sat back and breathed a sigh of relief, “oh my gosh, this is happening.” You would think that a dramatic road leading up to this point may be foreshadowing for a challenging pregnancy, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. The universe really came through for me.
Big sister, meet little sister
We waited until the 12-week mark, the gender reveal milestone, to finally tell Emilia that she was going to be a big sister. You see kids overjoyed at Disney World or on Christmas morning, but she lit up so brightly that it made everything up to this point worth it!
In October 2020, almost 4 years to the day of our first pregnancy loss, we welcomed our second daughter into the world. Emotions overtook me as I looked down at our baby girl’s face. As my husband and I basked in the intimate presence of our baby girl, recognition of her name felt natural – our miracle, Mirabelle. It was a surreal feeling to be holding the outcome of every treatment we explored and experiences we went through over the years.
No matter how you create your family, children are beautiful gifts that are hard to put into words. As I think about the babies we lost along the way, we would not have this little girl we have today – she’s perfect for us in every way.
If you asked me if a couple of months ago if we were going to have any more children, I would’ve said that our family is complete. I imagined that putting away my maternity clothes would offer a sense of closure, but now that Mirabelle is here, looking at her face is the most amazing thing. Through Mirabelle, we witnessed a miracle of science, technology, and nature. The door is still open for us to return to Shady Grove Fertility and use the embryos we have cryopreserved. But at this moment, I can confidently say that I feel like one of the luckiest people in the world.